Looking back on the 2018/19 Umzimkulu season hasn’t been the easiest task with the dismal sugar price that we are faced with. That said, we started the season on 16 April and given that start-ups can be diffi cult ours was a smooth one! That set the trend for the rest of the season, other than a few minor hiccups along the way, which is what we have become accustomed to with our mill. Another positive was the cane quality. We ended up with 13.16% RV average for the season. We also entered into a retention agreement with Illovo which will see our growers receive R9 per ton delivered. Thanks to the SA Canegrowers’ team for their continuous and valuable support in helping Umzimkulu cane growers in all the tough decisions that have to be made on a regular basis.
Rainfall patterns substantially varied during the growth period for the 2018/19 crop. Below normal rains were recorded between January- February 2018 in the Umzimkulu coastal area, December 2017-January 2018 in the hinterland area, and December 2017-February 2018 in the inland area. Significantly above normal rains occurred in October and November 2017. Rainfall was 689mm for inland, 1 234mm for hinterland and 727mm for coastal for the 2018 calendar year (Jan-Dec). The appointment of an Umzimkulu Area Manager in January 2019 by SA Canegrowers in the area will promote projects and grower days once again.
Activities in the region during the year fell under the oversight of the SA Canegrowers Industrial Affairs Manager and were as follows:
This was used to negotiate with Illovo Sugar South Africa, who generally agree to fund ripening on a 50:50 (miller-grower) basis. The project started more than five seasons ago and has consistently increased per season, with 2 742ha being chemically ripened in 2018/19 in Umzimkulu.
Has proven successful with multiple growers financially benefiting from increased RV yields over the past few seasons. This led to approximately 2 420ha sprayed in the 2018/19 in Umzimkulu.
Illovo sugar provides a transport subsidy on a sliding scale to growers in the Harding area, who are greater than 60km from the Umzimkulu Mill. SA Canegrowers updates the model that is used to calculate this subsidy, which changes monthly due to the variable fuel price.
According to the Sugar Industry Agreement, Mill Group Boards’ are required to submit cane quality estimates (i.e. sucrose, non-sucrose, fibre, RV) for the mill supply area (i.e. Umzimkulu), on a monthly basis. For the Umzimkulu area, the Mill Group Board relies heavily on SA Canegrowers to provide the analysis for these estimates and generally endorses the proposal submitted by SA Canegrowers.
The Umzimkulu area can be broadly split into 9 ‘zones’ or ‘wards.’ On a monthly basis during the milling season, SA Canegrowers provides a summary report of weekly statistics for each ward area. These include cane tonnages, cane quality, cane estimates and a snapshot summary of the entire industry production estimates for the season.
While the Sezela pol factor was a constant concern for most of the 18/19 milling season, there were also a few isolated weeks when the Umzimkulu pol factor was out of the allowance range. SA Canegrowers highlighted these issues at a Mill Group Board level, which were further investigated by Cane Testing Services (CTS). For one of the events, CTS identified the issue, which negatively affected the region and resulted in compensation being paid by Illovo Sugar to Umzimkulu growers.
These include normal reporting at Local Grower Council quarterly meetings on relevant topics - e.g. Congress updates, RV Price forecasts, new legislation (industry, minimum wage, HPL, etc)., input cost trends, local Umzimkulu issues etc. Other queries included grower farm budgets, planting and harvesting rates, lease agreement recommendations, compensation claims and property valuation advise.
The Umzimkulu mill crushed cane for a shorter period compared to the previous season 2017/2018, to compensate for the badly performing price in order to assist in maximising the RV curve. Umzimkulu Mill operated from 16 April 2018 until 02 October 2018 and the diversion to Sezela continued until 25 November 2018.